By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“President Donald Trump signed legislation on Thursday that would reduce tariffs on nearly 1,700 imported products used by U.S. manufacturers — an uncharacteristic move for the leader who has shown an affinity for imposing tariffs on foreign goods” [Politico]. “The bill, which House lawmakers passed last week, temporarily reduces or suspends tariffs on various imported raw materials and intermediate goods that are not produced in the U.S. The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill has long received strong support from congressional trade leaders and major business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but it expired in 2012 after it became entangled in the House Republican ban on earmarks.”
“Why China could withstand the trade war far longer than Trump thinks” [WaPo]. “‘They are under pressure to make a deal with us,’ Trump tweeted in reference to China. ‘Our markets are surging, theirs are collapsing.’… But unlike in the United States, the ups and downs of the Chinese stock market affect relatively few people, meaning sell-offs are unlikely to translate into pressure on Chinese leaders. Less than 10 percent of China’s adult population owns shares…” • Hmm. Not to defend Trump, but it seems reasonable to apply pressure to elites (this Chinese 10%) to induce policy change. That said, my question — like everybody else, I don’t know anything — is what happens to the working class in the hinterlands when goods start piling up on the docks? I see how One Belt One Road solves that problem in the long run, by building new markets in the ‘Stans and Mackinders “Heartland,” but as Sun Tzu remarked: In the long run, we’re all dead.
“China’s auto sector is shrugging off the trade war” [Business Insider]. “Looking ahead, prices of automobiles imported into China from the US will become even higher compared to other import origins. US car imports will attract an additional 25% of tariffs under the $16 billion goods tariff list effective on 23rd August, which delivers a total tariffs rate on imported American cars to 40%.What’s worse for US imports, is that China has lowered tariffs for automobiles which aren’t American to 15% from 25%. The net effect will be a price cut for cars imported to China except, for the cars imported from the US. Unsurprisingly, we expect Chinese consumers to favour purchases of European cars.” • I read this twice, and couldn’t find a reference to China increasing domestic production, especially with electric vehicles. Sure, screwing the US over in favor of Europe is good clean fun, but wouldn’t boosting Chinese production (hence demand) be wiser? Especially in the hinterlands?
“Trump’s trade war is a circular firing squad” [Asia Times]. “Pundits are engaged in an irresistible debate: who miscalculated more on trade – Donald Trump or Xi Jinping? A good argument can be made either way. The US president erred significantly when he argued: ‘Trade wars are good, and easy to win.’ Not when your foe is the leader of a proud government whose legitimacy relies on looking strong and resolute. Xi’s miscalculation in Beijing was thinking the ‘America First’ leader was bluffing. Clearly, Trump wasn’t. But the next misstep is all Trump’s as he turns on .” • Um.
“Sanders allies expect him to make second White House bid” [The Hill]. “‘I expect him to run,’ said Larry Cohen, the chairman of Our Revolution, an organization formed by Sanders operatives after their candidate lost the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton in 2016. ‘He’s probably the most popular elected official,’ Cohen added. Sanders allies increasingly talk more confidently about the likelihood of a second presidential bid. Just a few months ago, the allies were more careful about his potential candidacy. Jeff Weaver, who served as Sanders’s campaign manager in 2016, said Sanders ‘is being very thoughtful about’ whether he enters the race. ‘He’s very focused on the question of beating Trump and putting a Democrat in the White House,’ Weaver said. ‘And if he runs it’s because he thinks he’s the one to do it.'”
52 days until Election Day. 52 days is a long time in politics. The cliché is: “A week is a long time in politics,” attributed to former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
“The Daily 202: New York primary results challenge the crystallizing 2018 narrative” [James Hohmann, WaPo]. “This week’s final batch of 2018 primaries [Raimondo, Cuomo, Hochul, Carper, among others] ought to temper, at least somewhat, the over-torqued conventional wisdom that a liberal insurgency is taking over the Democratic Party…. By wading aggressively into some primaries, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee incensed the professional left. Loud complaints from activists generated untold stories about internecine warfare. But the DCCC finished the primary season 39 for 41 in the primaries where it took sides, a win rate of 95 percent. In fact, more House Republican incumbents have lost primaries this cycle than Democrats. Not a single sitting Democratic senator or governor lost a primary this year.” • As readers know, I never bought into this narrative for a single second, because [lambert preens] I took the trouble to do the quantitative work with the districts with my Worksheets. Second, and as usual, Hohmann conflates liberals and the left. Third, to my mind, the most interesting candidates are AOC and Salazar (and I may be being New York-centric here, so readers please correct me). Both — very much unlike Nixon and Teachout, for all their virtues — are explicitly socialist, both overcame well-entrenched liberal Democrats with stellar organizing, both have “complex biographies.” (Salazar faced a brutal smear campaign.) If the left is lucky and smart, these state-level races will be the left historic rhyming of the conservative takeover of local school boards that, well, took Kansas over the edge into Koch-inspired and -funded madness. So I care a lot more about the state level than the “flagship” candidates.
“With Primary Season Over, Democrats Poised to Gain 3 to 7 Governors’ Seats” [Governing]. “In our latest handicapping of the nation’s 36 races for governor, we’re shifting the ratings for 10 of them: six in the Democrats’ direction and four in the Republicans’. The six seats moving in Democrats’ favor are in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. And the four seats shift toward the GOP are in Alaska, Maine, Oregon and Rhode Island.” • Nice work with Raimondo in RI, Dems.
NY: “New York Is One Of The Bluest States In The Country. Its Voting Laws Are Horrendous.” [HuffPo]. “‘If progressives are not already alarmed at how bad our voting laws are in New York, they should be,’ said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who has introduced voting reforms legislation. He added that New York’s voting laws were on par with those in southern states, which have a history of severe voting restrictions, and that passing voting reforms would be a top priority if Democrats take back control of the state Senate in November.” • Let me know how that works out.
NY: The ballot:
My ballot looked nothing like this.
Are New York ballots not standardized across the state? https://t.co/9bZXZ7xGrj
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) September 13, 2018
Whoops. On the bright side, AOC retweeting Kelton is pretty neat.
NY Governor: “Cuomo no-shows Manhattan victory party, stays in Albany instead” [Albany Times-Union]. “It’s a highly unusual move for a winning candidate, though Cuomo has kept up a busy schedule in the final days of the campaign with rallies across the state.”
NY Senate: “Six of eight ex-IDC senators lose primary bids” [Times-Union]. “Progressive activists successfully wrested the Democratic nominations away from six former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference in primaries on Thursday, including the conference’s former leader, Jeff Klein…. The outcome marked a stunning epilogue to the rogue group formed by Klein in 2011, after Democrats lost the chamber, and the initial four members worked, with the tepid support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in conjunction with the Senate Republicans. In 2013, when Democrats made up a numerical majority, the renegade Democrats enabled Republicans to maintain control of the Senate.” • Let’s not forget that the IDC always had Ratface Andy’s “implicit blessing“; the IDC was a bulwark against the left, with its pesky desire for programs like single payer, enabling Cuomo to burnish his image as a Clinton-style liberal. New Yorkers please comment…
UPDATE NY Senate:
Based on the NYT's election results page, it looks like there were no contested primaries in 45 out of 63 NY State Senate seats and there were no contested primaries in 115 out of 150 NY State Assembly seats. That's quite a democracy you New Yorkers have going there. Impressive.
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) September 14, 2018
NY Attorney General: “New York Elects Its Next Anti-Trump Warrior” [HuffPo]. “[Tish] James, who currently serves as the public advocate of New York City, trounced three rivals to capture the Democratic nomination. The race saw strong challenges from her left flank by Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor known for her anti-corruption work, and Sean Patrick Mahoney, a sitting congressman [and Cuomo straw?]…. New York’s singular status gives James even more opportunities to make a national impact. The state is home to the bulk of America’s financial infrastructure, thereby giving its attorney general a unique set of responsibilities…. James will be expected to carry on the office’s modern role as a financial watchdog and an anti-corruption enforcer, though she disclaimed the “sheriff of Wall Street” moniker on the campaign trail. But the job’s most pressing responsibility today is keeping an eye on an even bigger fish. By sheer happenstance, President Donald Trump and his business empire fall under the jurisdiction of the New York attorney general’s office. This wouldn’t matter much under normal circumstances, but Trump is not a normal president.” • What on earth is wrong with being the “sheriff of Wall Street”?
UPDATE NY Attorney General: Handy map:
tired: upstate vs. downstate
wired: the three states of new york – james bay, zephyristan, and maloneya pic.twitter.com/264VxqK8qR
— cs (@cszabla) September 14, 2018
VA-09: “Can an Organic Farmer Win in Appalachian Virginia?” [The New Republic]. “The Fighting 9th, as it’s called, is large. At more than 9,100 square miles, it’s larger than the state of New Jersey, but just 700,000 people live within its borders. It takes up the state’s entire Appalachian west, beginning just west of Roanoke and touching the borders of West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky. The southern region of the district is historically agricultural; coal lies to the north. A successful insurgent will have to cover that distance, closing gaps both physical and political. To that end, Flaccavento has pledged to hold 100 town halls before polls open in November; his campaign says that as of today, he’s completed 80.” • A salutary reminder of how enormous the country is. VA-09 is not NY-12 (except in terms of the appeal of universal concrete material benefits, of course.
* * *
“Women candidates set nationwide records” [The Hill] • Identity politics is and has been the “crystallizing narrative,” as Hohmann very well knows. Don’t get me wrong: I think female spies and spy-humpers should have the same right to run for office as any other imperial lackey or torture enabler. After all, the intelligence community needs people in office who look like themselves!
“POLITICO Playbook PM: When a Democratic lawmaker raises money for a Republican incumbent …” [Politico]. “IT’S INCREDIBLY RARE for any lawmaker to help raise money for someone of the other party. BUT CUELLAR RAISING MONEY FOR CARTER is even more shocking considering the Texas Republican is in a surprisingly tight race against Democratic standout candidate MJ HEGAR. ADDING TO THE DRAMA: Hegar has been endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition, of which Cuellar is a co-chair! One Democratic source familiar with the race also noted that Cuellar and Carter held the fundraiser on Sept. 11, and Hegar is a veteran. HEGAR is one of the Democratic challengers leaders hope will surprise in November. She raised $1.1 million last quarter, and has had a couple of viral ads that put her on the map. THE DCCC was first informed of the Cuellar fundraiser by Playbook.” • It’s Democrats like this that really inspire the youth.
“US Iron Miner Helps Launch Ad Campaign to Sing Tariff Praises” [Industry Week]. “Some U.S. companies have reacted to the divisive issue of metal tariffs by saying as little as possible. Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., on the other hand, has not only publicly backed the levies, now it’s putting up money to sing their praises. The U.S. iron-ore producer says it’s deploying a promotional campaign with other companies that touts the benefits of President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs. Targeting voters in iron- or steel-producing states including Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio, the ads will begin to run this month and through October….”
New Cold War
“READ: Mueller files superseding criminal information against Manafort” (document) [The Hill]. “Criminal information typically precedes a guilty plea.”
“Manafort will cooperate with Mueller as part of guilty plea, prosecutor says” [WaPo]. “Both cases brought against Manafort by the special counsel stem from his work in Ukraine. The jury in Virginia found that Manafort hid millions of dollars he made in Ukraine to avoid paying taxes and then lied to get loans when the political party that was paying him was ousted from power and the funding dried up.” • Note, hilariously, that “the political party that was paying him” was trying to move Ukraine toward NATO, away from Russia. Do a favor, lose a friend.
“Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors” [Salon] “It remains unclear whether Manafort has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and provide any information to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election or is simply conceding to a guilty plea.”
“The FBI Is in Crisis. It’s Worse Than You Think” [Time (!)]. One of many horrid stories: “Last May, McCabe, then the FBI’s deputy director, sat down at the table in his seventh-floor office for a meeting with two agents from the inspections division. The agents had some questions about the Clinton Foundation leak just before the election. It was a quick meeting. McCabe, an FBI veteran who rose through the ranks over a 21-year career, told them he had “no idea” where the leak came from. The agents left after just five minutes or so, according to the Inspector General’s April 13 report. McCabe had offered that same basic assurance months earlier to his boss, then director Comey, investigators said, and had angrily lit into FBI officials under him, suggesting the Clinton leak had come from their offices and telling one senior agent in Washington to ‘get his house in order.’ But as it turned out, McCabe knew exactly where the leak had come from. He personally authorized it, Horowitz’s investigators found, to counter charges that he favored Clinton. (His wife received from the PAC of a Clinton ally, then Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, in a failed 2015 bid for state office.) • It’s been so long I don’t remember the details on McCabe’s Clinton Foundation leak (or whether the leak was correct). That said, you know what’s coming: “The FBI cost Clinton the election!” I think the real moral of the story is “Don’t take the Clinton’s money.” Hard to imagine details like that didn’t circulate in the office, eh?
“Barack Obama’s return just reminds us how he fueled the distrust that led to Donald Trump” [USA Today]. “How can Obama blame Americans for being cynical after repeating dozens of times his false promise that ‘If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your doctor,’ despite the dozens of mandates in Obamacare? How can he blame Americans for being cynical after his 2015 assertion that ‘it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book’? How can he castigate cynics after he campaigned in 2008 on a peace platform and then proceeded to bomb seven nations? How can he complain about distrust after he flip-flopped on illegal surveillance and unleashed the National Security Administration to target anyone ‘searching the web for suspicious stuff‘?” • Not to mention issuing the banksters a free pass….
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Federal Judge May Force Georgia to Switch to Paper Ballots” [Courthouse News]. “U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg called an emergency hearing Wednesday to determine whether an ongoing lawsuit alleging that Georgia’s electronic voting machines are susceptible to “malicious manipulation” will end with Georgians casting their votes using paper ballots instead of touchscreen voting machines. The Coalition for Good Governance claims in their lawsuit that Georgia’s 27,000 direct-recording electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hacking and are prohibitively difficult to secure since they lack a physical paper trail backup.”
UPDATE “LILAC’s response to the Steering Committee of Philly DSA” [Medium]. “In the 8 months since its creation, LILAC has grown to become the Local’s largest committee. About 90 unique DSA members — or 10% of our entire membership — have attended a LILAC meeting. Retention for the committee is high, with 20–30 repeat members at monthly meetings and 10+ new members each meeting…. [W]e find multiple instances in which the Steering Committee acted unilaterally to obstruct the work being done by Philly DSA organizers. There can be no doubt that the Steering Committee’s actions are the result of ideological differences with LILAC. Whereas LILAC members generally believe that building a mass socialist movement will require bottom-up organizing and the consistent application of a socialist analysis to intersecting issues, members of the steering committee appear to believe that we can only build solidarity if we focus on a single, supposedly ‘class-based’ demand, Medicare for All.” • The local/national conflict is as old as time…. That said, I never understood a DSA focus on Medicare for All. They aren’t strong enough to lead the effort, and they won’t get credit for passage of the bill. Canvassing is good, because when you knock on doors people see you don’t have fangs, but why that issue? Curious. (Then agai, that “intersecting issues” is phraseology I don’t like; issues don’t intersect. Ditto “supposedly ‘class-based’ demand.” There’s nothing “supposedly” but universal concrete material benefits like #MedicareForAll!
UPDATE I know how he feels:
I thought i was mad bc the dem habit of taking my vote for granted while ignoring my material needs in favor of corporate interests will shorten my life by a decade due to lack of healthcare, but now that I've been scolded by a rich celebrity I realize it's susan sarandon's fault
— Gallifreyan Jedi (@JediofGallifrey) September 13, 2018
I’m baffled by the continuing Clintonite hysteria about Susan Sarondon. It means nothing good. Remember when liberals were “the reality-based community”? Good times.
Industrial Production, August 2018: “Strength in mining and utilities offsets softness in manufacturing to lift industrial production” [Econoday]. “The subdued performance of manufacturing echoes the Fed’s Beige Book earlier in the week which described the sector as no better than moderate. This is quite a surprise given extraordinarily strong readings in many of the small sample reports especially the ISM. Yet mining is definitely strong and together with even moderate acceleration for manufacturing point to a solid year-end contribution from the industrial economy.” • The discrepancy between data and surveys is a continuing, open scandal, never addressed. And: “Although overall manufacturing output missed economists’ estimates, levels are still elevated. The factory data also show resilience in the face of supply constraints, wage pressures, higher prices and supply-chain disruptions amid global trade uncertainty. At the same time, this year’s corporate tax cuts bode well for companies while a strong job market is encouraging household spending” [Industry Week]. “Manufacturing, which makes up 75% of total industrial production, accounts for about 12% of the U.S. economy.” And but: “Capacity utilization at 78.1% is 1.7% below the average from 1972 to 2017 and below the pre-recession level of 80.8% in December 2007” [Calculated Risk]. • Best economy ever!
Business Inventories, July 2018: “Business inventories start the third-quarter very strong” [Econoday]. “The need to build inventories looks to be a major positive for GDP and a major positive for production and employment.”
Retail Sales, August 2018: “An upward revision to a very strong July offsets an unexpectedly flat August to make for a solid pace so far” [Econoday]. “Weakness in August is tied to motor vehicles where sales fell… Positives include another strong gain for nonstore retailers… as e-commerce continues to muscle out gains.” And but: “The increase in August was well below expectations, however sales in June and July were revised up” [Calculated Risk].
Import and Export Prices, August 2018: “The dollar has been strong which does help explain at least some of the surprising weakness for import prices which fell” [Econoday]. “But the weakness is more than just the dollar and imports, it’s also on the export side…. Price pressures on the global level are very subdued and further gains for the dollar would point to increasingly subdued levels for imported inflation. But for the Federal Reserve the risk right now is tied, not to global prices or consumer prices, but to lack of capacity in the labor market and the prospect of wage inflation.”
Consumer Sentiment, September 2018 (Preliminary): “Consumer sentiment is moving higher so far this month…, the strongest showing since March this year and after that the strongest since 2004” [Econoday]. “All major socio-economic subgroups are showing strength this month though concerns about tariffs are on the rise, mentioned by 1/3 of all respondents vs 1/5 in prior months. And especially important readings for the Federal Reserve are inflation expectations which are on the downturn….”
Shipping: “How Organizations Recruit Drivers (Top 10)” [Freight Waves]. • Referrals, 60%. Training, 9%.
Meta: “We’re Measuring the Economy All Wrong” [David Leonhardt, New York Times]. “A team of academic economists — Gabriel Zucman, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty (the best-selling author on inequality) — has begun publishing a version of G.D.P. that separates out the share of national income flowing to rich, middle class and poor. For now, its data is published with a lag; the most recent available year is 2014. But the work is starting to receive attention from other academics and policy experts [including Senators Chuck Schumer and Martin Heinrich]…. ‘As someone who advises policymakers, I can tell you there is often this shock: ‘The economy is growing. Why aren’t people feeling it,” [Heather Boushey, who runs the Washington Center for Equitable Growth] says. ‘The answer is: Because they literally aren’t feeling it.’ ….. It’s worth remembering that the current indicators are not a naturally occurring phenomenon. They are political creations, with the flaws, limitations and choices that politics usually involves.” • Well worth a read.
Imperial Collapse Watch
“What’s to Blame for Boston-Area Natural Gas Explosions?” [MarketWatch]. “At a press conference on Thursday, fire investigators suggested that over-pressurization in a gas-delivery main may have caused the blasts. The natural gas supplier for the affected area is Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI). Columbia serves more than 50,000 customers in the Merrimack Valley including the cities of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence where the explosions and fires occurred. Ironically, perhaps, earlier in the day Columbia Gas issued an announcement that it would begin upgrading its distribution lines in the region…. The carnage in Massachusetts was localized to individual homes, leading investigators to suspect that small-diameter distribution lines were over-pressurized. Natural gas lines into a house would normally maintain a pressure of around 0.25 lb per square inch, just barely higher than normal air pressure. But gas travels at significantly higher pressures before it reaches the meter and the regulator attached to a house that reduces the pressure to safe levels for consumers. The house fills with gas and the slightest spark can ignite it. Why the lines became over-pressurized (if indeed they did) will be determined over the course of the next several days.” • Filing this story here because it’s Third World stuff. Gas line installers — I’m sure we have some in the readership! — feel free to weigh in!
“Set Theory of the Left” [Haydar Khan, Counterpunch]. “The essential flaw lies in conflating the intersection of sets with the union of sets. Take a minute to think about the difference. The way “intersectionality” is used today reminds me of Inigo Montoya, the character in the movie The Princess Bride. “You keep using that word,” he says. “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo is talking about a completely different word, of course. (His word is “inconceivable”) But his point applies here. Intersectionality, far from having an inclusionary effect, actually excludes many, many people due to characteristics in them judged unwelcome. Intersectionality as a political strategy thus thwarts the objective of forming a large enough coalition capable of winning and effectively wielding political power.” • This is an important post that you should take the time to read, especially if you are a Gregory Bateson fan. In fairness, by “important” I mean “confirms my priors”; see this post from NC on intersectionality from 2016, where I wrote:
Penn’s intersectionality is vulgar because it’s either/or. Crenshaw’s intersectionality is both/and. (One cannot but wonder whether the tendency of Democratic apparatchiks to vulgar intersectionality is a result of their institutional structure [cf. Conway’s Law]: There is one desk that speaks “for women,” another desk “for blacks,” another desk “for youth,” but no desk for “black young women”.)
Let alone a desk for “black young working class women.” Subject to correction by actual math people: My “Either/or” v. “both/and” is Kahn’s “intersection” v. “union” using less fancy words. (I think the right way to think about ugly collection of communication/organizing issues is with AOC’s trope of “lenses“. My lenses are progressive tri-focals….)
News of The Wired
These little town blues:
Good morning. A cord was pulled on a train at 14 St-Union Sq causing delays and changes in service. We know this is frustrating. Please know we are working on fixing things within the next 5-10 years with our Fast Forward Plan. ^CB
— NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway) September 13, 2018
“THE PLATONIST FILE: What makes 17 a prime?” [Daily Howler]. • I keep meaning to introduce readers to The Howler, who I would categorize as an old-school blogger, except that — IIRC, it was a long time ago — he was doing the media critique before there was blogging. In any case, just so I don’t forget, here he is on academic philosophy, so fans of that discipline, please weigh in. Today, Gödel. Tomorrow, Wittgenstein!
“Burning Man’s Mathematical Underbelly” [Scientific American]. “While all of the art on the Playa is eye-catching, a lot of it is extremely technical as well: lasers that continuously outline your shadow, sensors that sync the Man’s heartbeat with your own, huge kinetic sculptures, interactive digital art (which is either highly random or unobviously complex), and on and on. A moment’s thought would have revealed that there must be an army of scientists and engineers behind the scenes. ”
Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (divad ymal):
divad ymal writes: “The front garden of my upstate NY estate is hanging in. I have a secluded spot to sit in there.”
Readers, I’m running a bit short on plants. Probably a little soon for fall foliage, or wrapping up the garden, but I’m sure you can find something! How about a project you completed over the summer?
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